Real-life tips for better sleep

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Most of us are exhausted and don't even realize it. Here, seven ways you can sleep better tonight.

1. Your first step: acceptance
The three habits that experts consider cold, hard proof of sleep deprivation: You rely on caffeine to make it through the day, every day (even with a good night's sleep); you can't wake up on time without an alarm; and on weekends you have to sleep in for hours.

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2. Quit considering sleep a luxury
Experts say too many young women view sleep as a treat, like a facial or new shoes. "Consider sleep as crucial to well-being as proper diet and exercise," said Kristen Knutson, Ph.D.

3. Increase hours painlessly
Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night for a week, then add another 15 the next week and so on, Dr. Joseph Ojile said: "Tiny increments are less daunting but can make a major difference. In a month, you'll be sleeping an hour more every night."

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4. Trick out your bedroom
Set the thermometer 3 degrees below your daytime norm—65 to 68 degrees for most of us. Your body temp naturally drops when you sleep, and a cool room helps it along. Dim lamps before bedtime, too; light makes your pineal gland inhibit melatonin, a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle.

5. Resist the siren call of the screen
Shut down your iStuff, TV and computer an hour before you crash; artificial light fools your brain's hypothalamus (the part that transitions you into sleep) into thinking it's daytime. If you absolutely can't resist a peek at email, at least hold the phone at arm's length to minimize the effects.

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6. Don't drink and sleep
Middle-of-the-night bladder calls aren't doing your good night's sleep any favors,so try not to down a lot of liquid before bedtime—especially anything alcoholic. Although booze can make you drowsy right after you drink it, several hours later you might wake up; experts hypothesize that's because falling blood alcohol levels disrupt your sleep, particularly R.E.M.—the deepest kind.

7. Beat that 2 a.m., wide-eyes thing
Wakefulness issues—lying in bed totally alert in the middle of the night, getting up earlier than you want to—are common sleep problems, even if insomnia gets all the attention. White noise helps; the steady whir of a fan or a wave machine can soothe you into slumber and cancel out middle-of-the-night car horns and your partner's snoring (plus frustration about said snoring).

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